New York Times, January 18, 2015
Oh, Abbots, a word to the wise. If Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) ever asks you to "hide the thing," please know she's referring to the more-than-gently-used diaphragm she took to Liverpool for her weeklong fling with Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen).
If she tells you, "There must be some corner cupboard in the cottage where nobody goes," don't believe her! As surely as Mrs. Patmore's sauces come to a hearty boil, somebody will go there, and it will almost certainly be your husband, who will want to know why you're blockading his boys, which will remind you that you'd like to know what he was doing in London with a certain Mr. Green (who, by this point, could be a character in "Clue").
Oh, I admit this last part is pure speculation—when last seen, Anna (Joanne Froggatt) was simply slipping the diaphragm into her pocket—but there's no way it can end well, can it, Abbots? And come to think of it, why doesn't Mary just throw the blasted thing away? Is she planning a week in Manchester, too? Nether Alderley?
Well, here's what we can say for sure by the end of Episode 3: Lord G is ripped in a way that 1920s men never were, and he can rip it in bed, too. The sex, to judge by the look on Lady Mary's face when they're together, is just fine. The aftersex, to judge by the look on her face when he leaves the room, is... not so much.
"He's a nice man," says Mary, "a very nice man, but not... I mean, of course, we talked about things...."
I think Mary is trying to say that his intellectual organ is a little on the small side. Which may explain the utter lack of voltage that has existed between these two characters from the get-go. Lord G. is trying to press his advantage, but I don't see Mary (or the audience) tolerating him for much more than another episode or two, barring some game-changing revelation. Ten to one she hightails it back to Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden), at least until a character played by Matthew Goode—fresh from lighting a fire under "The Good Wife"—is introduced in the finale, called the "Christmas episode" (which, in the United States, will air in the thick of spring).
Speaking of Christmas and spring: Mere minutes after declaring, "In my day, a lady was incapable of feeling physical attraction until she'd been instructed to do so by her mama," Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), is bum-rushed by an old Russian suitor, Prince Kuragin (Rade Serbedzija). Seems the two of them seriously heated up the Winter Palace back in the day, and they've got the fan to prove it. (The Oscar Wilde nod is intentional, I'm guessing.)
"Granny has a past," murmurs Mary.
"Have you made plans to see your admirer again?" smirks Isobel (Penelope Wilton).
Violet is speechless, and who ever thought I'd type that?
Meanwhile, fires flicker beneath the limpid blue eyes of Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) as she traipses off to London for a gallery tour with her admirer, Simon Bricker (Richard E. Grant). Alone and vulnerable and pleasantly piqued by another man's attention, Cora summons up memories of her London youth: "My father was Jewish, and the money was new. But there was a lot of it, and I was pretty."
Shorn of her usual simpering, Ms. McGovern is exceptionally touching here, and when Robert makes insinuating remarks about Bricker's motives, Cora's native reticence gives a special sting to her rebuke: "You're allowed to be cross, but you're not allowed to be unjust." It's an under-remarked aspect of this show that its moral compass is a middle-aged American woman.
Best scene: the Russian émigrés getting weepy-eyed over Downton's Czarist relics.
Best line: I'll suppress the urge to nominate Lord G,'s "Surely there are some delights of Liverpool we have yet to share" or that homey coinage of Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol): "Sympathy butters no parsnips." And I'll note with no small relief that Violet's back in business. Isobel lofts her usual straight line: "Servants are human beings, too." Violet spikes it: "Yes, but preferably only on their days off." Let's not kid ourselves, though. What was the line that had you howling on the floor? "That's enough, Daisy. Come and carry the spotted dick." (And if the people of England didn't want us to laugh, they wouldn't have given it that name.)
This week's drinking game: A glass of sherry for every time frustrated maternal longing wells in the eyes of Edith (Laura Carmichael).
Department of other stuff...
Is Bricker really the best name for a would-be cad and seducer? It sounds like something that goes wrong in cricket. "Hedgepeth bowled a real bricker that last innings...."
Baxter (Raquel Cassidy) finally identifies the guy who talked her into stealing her mistress's jewels: a nasty footman named Coyle. She never wants to see him again, so it's too bad no one told her about the Downton Rule of Exposition: Once you have named a character, he or she will appear before the season is out.
Hissing Thomas (Rob James-Collier) answers some ad in a London magazine about "Choose Your Own Path." Which could mean sexual liberation or Dale Carnegie. Here's hoping he finds something to bring color to those chalky cheeks. And I assume his "dad" will make some miraculous "recovery." Maybe we can even hold out hope for a father-son smackdown in the Christmas episode?
If you didn't know that Baron Julian Fellowes, the creator of "Downton," was a Conservative M.P., you might guess it from his characterization of the firebrand Sarah Bunting (Daisy Lewis), who insults her hosts at every turn and then, for good measure, insults their Czarist guests. She's the most tiresome possible representative of the Socialist left—like the first half hour of "Ninotchka" on endless loop.
Completely random fact: Baron Fellowes once auditioned to replace Hervé Villechaize on "Fantasy Island." How might history have changed if he'd been Tattoo 2.
Talk it up, Abbots. Will Violet and the prince get it on? Will Carson allow the name of Mrs. Patmore's nephew to be inscribed on the war memorial? Will Pip's Corner get 50 ugly modern houses? Is "informal conference of northern landowners" some kind of sick slang?
Till next week ...